Saturday, May 27, 2006

Annette Presley take note.

Look what this guy is saying. Oh, and this 'thief'. Looks like certain comments are themselves being 'unbundled.' It's hard to keep a good argument contained on the net, isn't it. Or is Annette simply proving as "inspirational" as she often says she is?

TAGS: Telecom

East Timor: Why? How many? And for how long?

I'm interested in hosting a debate here on NZ's military presence in East Timor, which seems to have happened gradually and without either discussion or significant Parliamentary attention -- much like happened in Vietnam, really. Clark suggests NZ's soldiers will be there for at least a year, but that's somewhat simliar to what John F. Kennedy said when he first sent 'observers' to Vietnam, wasn't it?
  • What's been happening in East Timor is certainly outrageous, but what exactly are 160 NZ soldiers (and counting) expected to achieve there to stop it?
  • And on whose behalf? Who will be the final beneficiary of NZ's 'peace-keeping' in Dili? Do we know?
  • What sort of peace are our soldiers trying to achieve there? Given that their armaments and disposition are better used offensively than defensively -- in other words, they're better equipped for 'shooting at' than being shot at -- who will they be shooting at, and why? And how much being shot at will there be, and why?
  • Will they be able to hunt down all those who shot at them, and if not why not? How many will be killed (and how many of them) if they don't?
  • Why has there been so little debate to date on NZ's military involvement there?
  • And will our troops even get there without their RNZAF transport breaking down?
I'm happy to hear and to air views on these and any related questions, and I might post the best responses here on the front page. How 'bout it?

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Politics-World, Timor

Open letter to TelstraClear, from a customer

>Written by a customer in response to a letter from TelstraClear trumpeting their excitement at the Government's nationalisation of Telecom's lines. No egos were bruised in the making of this letter.

Dear TelstraClear

Thanks for this message. Unfortunately, I seem to be one of the few New Zealanders who are disgusted with your support of the government's bullyboy tactics with regard to its decision concerning Telecom and broadband. Let me state for the record that I am an otherwise satisfied TelstraClear customer. I have been a customer since returning permanently to New Zealand 11 years ago. You have all my toll, internet and residential business.

The fact is that Telecom owned the broadband service. Broadband was its property. But the state has obscenely overridden those property rights in a blatant vote-buying exercise. The position taken by other service providers regarding the government's enforced LLU is reminiscent of a group of kids crowded around a schoolyard fight egging on the bully. In other words, you have lobbied the state to use force (against Telecom) on your behalf.

You picked the wrong fight. Rather than support state force against a company, you should have fought against its (the government's) appalling Resource Management Act that all but prevents you (and other suppliers) from building your own networks; the RMA hampering progress, particularly of a commercial nature, as it routinely does.

In conclusion, please don't grizzle if, in future, the state should step in and enforce an action against your company. The state never solves problems. It subsidises them. And the government that can give you something is the same government that can take it away.

SR

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Telecom

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Beer O'Clock: Moa. Not endangered at all.

The sun's past the yard-arm, what little of it can be seen, and there's a great few hours of footy in store. Time to think about what we'll be watching the footy with. This week's Beer O'Clock advice comes from Real Beer's Neil Miller:

Any number of beers around the world claim to be unique.

It is a big boast and many brews simply fail to live up to it. They may very well be different, but that is not the same as being unique.

Sometimes, the beer are actually unique but for a good reason. For example, perhaps no one else thought popcorn and tomato sauce flavored lager was a good idea. Those people would be right of course.

Occasionally though, something strides through the palatial door of my secret overground worldwide headquarters that is both unique and good.

One such thing is Moa.

Given the high calibre of readers attracted by the philosophical and architectural musings of Not PC [a group that clearly excludes the thin-skinned the overly sensitive, and those "too busy to think about what people might think of their image" - Ed.], I have to add the caveats that Moa is, to my knowledge, a unique style in New Zealand.

Moa appears in a classy 750ml champagne bottle complete with wire cage and cork.

The champagne allusions don’t end there. The brewing process borrows techniques from the classical “methode champenoise” which the brewer Josh Scott picked up while learning wine making in France.

This includes freezing the contents and disgorging a plug of sediment. The beer is also re-fermented in the bottle and is still very much alive when you pour it.

An attractive pale straw in colour, it positively bursts with the smallest bubbles I have seen in a beer. These push up into a bright white head which will usually sustain right to the bottom of the glass.

Slightly fruity and spicy on the nose, the beer is spritzy in the mouth with brushes of citrus fruit and a gentle cleansing finish.

A further advantage is that you can usually drink it in BYO Bottled Wine only eateries.

Strong sales indicate this Moa is not an endangered species.

LINKS: Real Beer
Moa Beer

TAGS:
Beer_&_Elsewhere

Future generations

The architecture of happiness

Having just heard a very brief interview between Mike Hosking and author/philosopher/publishing phenomenon Alain de Botton on Alain's new book, pictured left, I'm interested to find out more about it. Commentator Joe Bennett is a fan -- his books, says Bennett, "hauled philosophy from the high shelves to the bedside table" which isn't necessarily a bad thing -- and on the face of it, his thesis sounds laudable as far as it goes:
One of the great, but often unmentioned, causes of both happiness and misery is the quality of our environment: the kind of walls, chairs, buildings and streets we’re surrounded by. And yet a concern for architecture and design is too often described as frivolous, even self-indulgent. 'The Architecture of Happiness' starts from the idea that where we are heavily influences who we can be - and argues that it is architecture’s task to stand as an eloquent reminder of our full potential.
I'm curious to see just how far he does go with that argument, yet more than a little concerned by one reviewer's comment that in his latest "philosopher looks at architecture" routine
de Botton is just looking at façades, whereas,
Great architecture is mostly concerned with the arrangement of space and light... What de Botton has done is the equivalent of literary criticism based on jacket design: a very interesting idea, but not the full story.
Since I've argued elsewhere that the essence of architecture is space, I really hope de Botton does go further.

Anyway, looks like the website for the book has a great deal of information, and even some video clips from the TV series that was evidently made from the book. Interesting.

LINKS: 'The Architecture of Happiness' by Alain de Botton - author's website, including reviews, extracts and video clips
Audio Interview with Alain de Botton - Scoop
'The Architecture of Happiness' - review by Stephen Bayley, The Independent
What is architecture? - Peter Cresswell, SOLO

TAGS: Architecture

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'In the beginning was sound' -- Barenboim's Reith lectures. 'Brilliant!'

The internet is a wonderful thing. Not only does it throw up the absurd, the titillating and the combative, lurking within it also are real nuggets of pure genius. This year's BBC Reith Lectures by brilliant conductor Daniel Barenboim is such a nugget.

If you're at all interested in music, then you should be overwhelmed by this series of five fascinating lectures from an inspirational man who knows music inside out -- lectures that you can see on the net in pristine video, or hear in pure MP3, or just read, if you wish, without the benefit of the glorious music he uses to illustrate his points.

Rather than summarise myself what he says, I'll let him tell you himself:
I will ... attempt the impossible and maybe try and draw some connection between the inexpressible content of music and, maybe, the inexpressible content of life.

In Chicago [Lecture 2] I will be trying to rescue "the neglected sense" - the ear - and launch a campaign against muzak. [Boy, did that excite some controversy.]

In Berlin [Lecture 3]
I will argue that we have lost the ability to make value judgements about public standards - all because of political correctness and bad education.

In Ramallah [Lecture 4] I will speak about the ability of music to integrate, and how it is that a musician is by the sheer nature of his profession in many ways, an integrating figure. If a musician is unable to integrate rhythm, melody, harmony, volume, speed, he cannot make music.

And to end in Jerusalem [Lecture 5], I will try to explain what to me is a very major difference between power and strength - something which I learned very precisely from music, that if you attack a chord with more power than you are going to sustain it, it has no strength. So there we are at the first, if you want, connection between the inexpressible content of music and in many ways the inexpressible content of life...

Of course, appropriate moment to quote Neitszche, who said that life without music would be a mistake.
And now we come to the first question - why? Why is music so important? Why is music something more than something very agreeable or exciting to listen to? Something that, through its sheer power, and eloquence, gives us formidable weapons to forget our existence and the chores of daily life...
Why indeed? Listen up and learn. I certainly have.

UPDATE: Whoops. Links fixed.

LINKS: In the beginning was sound, Reith Lectures 2006 - BBC Radio 4
Barenboim hits out at 'sound of muzak' - BBC News

TAGS: Music, Heroes, Science

The man who evicted the IRD

"The man who took on the IRD and won." It's a great headline, and a great story -- and Dave Henderson's not a bad bloke either. Last Sunday's Herald (yes, I'm a week late) has a run-down on how the IRD tried to bury him, and he bounced back to defeat their attempt to bankrupt him only to buy their building and, eventually, evict them.

A great story.

LINK: The man who took on the IRD and won - Herald

TAGS: New_Zealand, Heroes

Friday, May 26, 2006

Annette Presley: The face of threats

Well readers, the lawyers for Our Annette just sent me this missive on her behalf (right -- click on it for a larger version). Not content with using the law to 'unbundle' her competitors, she now wants to do the same to one of her detractors. Odd really, when she told my old school chum Michelle Hewitson last weekend,
She's too busy to think about what people might think of her image. "I think if I worried about that I wouldn't get out of bed in the morning."
This was just after Michelle reported Presley "has a laugh like a kookaburra and fingernails like the sheilas on Footballers' Wives. You are not going to mistake her for a shy, retiring type."

Well, clearly she is. So what should I do, customers? What should I tell Mr Lowndes and Ms Presley? Isn't truth an absolute defence? Just so you're sure what it was I said and the context in which I said it, here is the "offending publication": 'Annette Presley: The face of theft.'

TAGS: Telecom, Blog, Law, Politics-NZ

It's an un-fair cop

After a dozen or more years of John Banks' amalgamation of cops and traffic cops it's clear it hasn't worked. Instead of more policemen on the beat and an improvement in the thuggish culture of the traffic cops we got exactly the reverse -- more traffic cops, and more policemen turning into thugs.

The recent rash of rape trials of high-ranking policemen just makes clear what most of us already know: that all is not well with the force. Our policemen and women seem to spend more time doing us over than they do protecting us. Burgled? 'Don't bother us, we're too busy.' Car stolen? 'Not interested.' Home invasion? 'Let us know how you got on.' Rape? 'Out the back, thanks.' Speeding? Warrant offence? Rego overdue? 'Get out of the car, sir, and empty your wallet.'

Today's police are not our friends, as Louise Nicholas for one might attest. As Trevor Loudon notes,
Today, when you say "Police" to many people, they envision a specially marked car with flashing lights in their rear-view mirror. That car is perceived to be a predator seeking to attack the driver's wallet usually with little or no justification. Many people believe they are more likely to be ripped-off by a traffic cops than by gang members. Real criminals hardly consider the Police as a threat anymore. This image has produced the "us and them" separation between the public and the Police.
And as all those new policemen and women might well make it all worse, rather than better, Trevor's zapped out a few thoughts on how to "make 'Cop' the highly respected word it once was." Something sure needs to be done, and urgently. The motto 'To Serve and Protect' would hardly be appropriate at present, would it. More like a sad, sorry joke.

LINKS: Acquitted Nicholas-case trio face new sex trial - NZ Herald
How to save our Police Force - New Zeal (Trevor Loudon)

TAGS:
Politics-NZ, Law

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Belgian balls

Let's say you're a talk show host. And your guest is a man who had his testicles removed. And you ask his wife about his sex life. You don't need to be either hearltess, gullible or Belgian to enjoy the result. But at least one Dane might appreciate the humour. Those Europeans, eh.

Clip here. [Hat tip The Goodness.]

LINKS: Belgian Talk show - You Tube
!! - Berlin Bear

TAGS: Humour

'Maori most affected by minimum wage' says academic

Here is some sense. From an academic. I know that's surprising.
Maori would be most adversely affected by a rise in the minimum wage, says an AUT senior economics lecturer.
See. Good sense. And of course she's right (and have you noticed that a lot of AUT lecturers are not the politically correct line-toers that many of their colleagues over the road are?), and she's backed it up with research:
"My study [says Gail Pacheco] found for Maori who find the minimum wage binding, a 10% rise in the real minimum wage would see a 15.8% point fall in employment propensity, a drop of 13.5 hours usually worked each week, a 5.7% point increase in unemployment propensity and a 10.9% point increase in inactivity, that is, not working or studying."

Pacheco says the minimum wage is a blunt instrument and there needs to be a more balanced debate around increasing it.

Doesn't there just. As Linda Gorman's entry in the Concise Encyclopaedia of Economics summarises,
minimum wage laws can set wages, [but] they cannot guarantee jobs. In reality, minimum wage laws place additional obstacles in the path of the most unskilled workers who are struggling to reach the lowest rungs of the economic ladder.
Decades ago -- before the onset of today's widespread economic ignorance -- people knew that. Indeed, there were white, male economists about who supported the minimum-wage laws precisely because they knew they would adversely affect blacks and women. 'Progressives,' such as Richard Ely, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, the Webbs in England etc., wanted women kept in their place -- which meant 'the home' -- and racist economists in US and South African unions wanted blacks kept in their place -- which meant 'not in white men's jobs' and 'not in our country clubs' -- and they knew that raising the minimum wage would put women and blacks out of work. Notes Thomas Sowell for example,
The first federal minimum wage law, the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, was passed in part explicitly to prevent black construction workers from "taking jobs" from white construction workers by working for lower wages. It was not meant to protect black workers from "exploitation" but to protect white workers from competition.
Notes Walter Williams for example, in his 1989 book South Africa's War Against Capitalism "racists recognized the discriminatory effects of mandated minimum wages," and he quotes Gert Beetge, secretary of South Africa's avowedly racist Building Worker's Union, in response to contractors hiring black workers, who said:
There is no job reservation left in the building industry, and in the circumstances I support the rate-for-the-job [minimum wages] as the second best way of protecting our white artisans.
More on the 'secret history' of the minimum wage in Tim Leonard's paper, Protecting Family and Race: The Progressive Case for Regulating Women's Work.

LINKS: Maori could be affected by minimum wage rise - Gail Pacheco, AUT, Scoop
Minimum wages - Linda Gorman,
Concise Encyclopaedia of Economics
Ignoring economics - Thomas Sowell
Minimum wage, maximum folly - Walter Williams
Minimum wage escalation - Thomas Sowell
Protecting Family and Race: The Progressive Case for Regulating Women's Work - Tim Leonard, American Journal of Economics and Sociology, July 2005

TAGS: Minimum_Wage, Economics, Politics-US, History-Twentieth_Century

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Monuments? You want MONUMENTS?!

For those young chaps who visited North Korea as guests of the Democratically-Starving People's Republican Korean Government and who returned to write about with misty-eyed awe (reported at DPF's yesterday and right here at Not PC a month ago) and who were so impressed by those monuments - and for whatever other monument-fanciers there might be out there - here's a brief resume of monumental Muscovite architecture from the thirties and forties. You have to admit, they sure knew how to build monuments.

Shown here is the 1934 project for the Palace of the Soviets, which (thankfully) remained unbuilt:

That would have been an awful long way for that large statue of Lenin to have to fall, wouldn't it. But it would have made an almighty crash, one that was heard around the world -- and that perhaps might have been its only real value. Ayn Rand, who grew up in Soviet Russia, skewered the mentalities who build and admire such things in 'The Monument Builders' (found in this collection of essays). Here's a longish excerpt:
Socialism is not a movement of the people. It is a movement of the intellectuals, originated, led and controlled by the intellectuals, carried by them out of their stuffy ivory towers into those bloody fields of practice where they unite with their allies and executors: the thugs.

What, then, is the motive of such intellectuals? Power-lust. Power-lust—as a manifestation of helplessness, of self-loathing and of the desire for the unearned. The desire for the unearned has two aspects: the unearned in matter and the unearned in spirit. (By "spirit" I mean: man's consciousness.) These two aspects are necessarily inter-related, but a man's desire may be focused predominantly on one or the other.

The desire for the unearned in spirit is the more destructive of the two and the more corrupt. It is a desire for unearned greatness; it is expressed (but not defined) by the foggy murk of the term ‘prestige’ ...

There are two ways of claiming that ‘The public, c'est moi’: one is practiced by the crude material parasite who clamors for government handouts in the name of a ‘public’ need and pockets what he has not earned; the other is practiced by his leader, the spiritual parasite, who derives his illusion of "greatness"—like a fence receiving stolen goods—from the power to dispose of that which he has not earned and from the mystic view of himself as the embodied voice of ‘the public.’

Of the two, the material parasite is psychologically healthier and closer to reality: at least, he eats or wears his loot. But the only source of satisfaction open to the spiritual parasite, his only means to gain ‘prestige’ (apart from giving orders and spreading terror), is the most wasteful, useless and meaningless activity of all: the building of public monuments.

Greatness is achieved by the productive effort of a man's mind in the pursuit of clearly defined, rational goals. But a delusion of grandeur can be served only by the switching, undefinable chimera of a public monument—which is presented as a munificent gift to the victims whose forced labor or extorted money had paid for it—which is dedicated to the service of all and none, owned by all and none, gaped at by all and enjoyed by none.

This is the ruler's only way to appease his obsession: ‘prestige.’ Prestige—in whose eyes? In anyone's. In the eyes of his tortured victims, of the beggars in the streets of his kingdom, of the bootlickers at his court, of the foreign tribes and their rulers beyond the borders. It is to impress all those eyes—the eyes of everyone and no one—that the blood of generations of subjects has been spilled and spent.
I wonder if the wide-eyed innocents being shown around the North Korean monuments gave any thought to any of that, or to which variety of parasite their visit and their craven apologia supports, and indeed which type of parasite they are themselves?

LINKS: Living it up in the DPRK - Not PC (April 27)
Visit to North Korea -
Kiwiblog (David Farrar, May 25)
The Architecture of Moscow from the 1930s to the early 1950s. Unrealised projects - MUAR

TAGS: Architecture, History-Twentieth_Century, Nonsense, Socialism, Politics, Objectivism

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'Brooklyn Bridge' - John and Washington Roebling


The Brooklyn Bridge was at the time it was built one of the wonders of the world: the first large suspension bridge -- bigger by a substantial margin than its closest rival -- and the first built with ductile steel wire. Its designer John Roebling was already in the very first rank of the world's engineers when he began this project; structural and construction innovations there are aplenty, and a measure of his genius can be gauged by the fact that a bridge built in the steam age is still going strong today.

Opened on May 24 1883 (yes, I'm a day late) the bridge both symbolised and made real the coming to maturity of the great city that is New York. It is a masterpiece that fully deserves its spectacular setting.

LINKS: Brooklyn Bridge website - Buildings & Monuments Bookmarks

TAGS:
Architecture, Urban_Design

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

'Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground'

The whole history of progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.

This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will.
Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
--Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)
TAGS: Quotes, Politics, History

Dreams killed north of Auckland

Councils are stealing property rights again, this time in Pakiri, north of Auckland.

Some years ago the proposed 'Arigato' block at Pakiri became the focus of much environmental opposition, including the opposition of the Environmental Defence Society (EDS). When an application to develop the block was won by those who owned it in the teeth of opposition from those who didn't -- including one judge member of EDS who found against the development only to be overturned on appeal -- caterer Rae Ah Chee formed the dream to buy there, build there and retire there.

Sandra Coney and her coven of Auckland Regional Councillors have a different dream however. They harbour dreams of open space and a large reserve at Pakiri, just as many councils do at many beachfronts, and Rae Ah Chee's house is right in the middle of where they would like that open space to be. Guess whose dream wins? Guess who gets their open space by stealth?

The ARC has just rejected Rae Ah Chee's application to build his own house on his own land. ARC parks chairman Sandra Coney said: "We've spent $20 million of ratepayers' money to give a wonderful remote get-away-from-it-all iconic park and are keen to protect it from this intrusion of a trophy house on the landscape." Sandra Coney is a bitch. A busy-body, meddling, thieving bitch. A harridan whom the Resource Management Act hands the power to destroy -- a power she would not have but for the power it gives her.

She and her brood are using that power to destroy the
the property rights and the dreams of Mr Ah Chee, and all property-owning New Zealanders. It is high time instead that the power of these unproductive meddling arseholes be removed, be taken away for good, and the property rights of New Zealanders be respected and protected once again. It is time, in short, for the RMA to go.

UPDATE: Rae Ah Chee told Newstalk ZB, "
he thinks the two councils still have a chip on their shoulder over losing the environment court case. Rae Ah Chee says the plans for their home comply with the guidelines and there is no reason for the councils not to grant consent."

Meanwhile Auckland Regional Councilor Christine Rose says they have "genuine concerns which need to be dealt with." Me too. "She says it is important dwellings on prominent ridgelines are in keeping with the sensitive values of the landscape [and thanks, Rae, for the free park]."

LINKS: ARC sours dream of Pakiri beach pad - NZ Herald
It's time to drive a stake through the heart of the RMA - Peter Cresswell, Free Radical [4-page PDF]

TAGS: RMA, Property_Rights, Auckland, Urban_Design

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Immigration review

You're perhaps aware of NZ's current imigration review. It is of course partly a sop to Winston the Poodle, but as Katie Small of Kete Were says in an article at Scoop it is "long-needed:the Act’s last revision came in 1987 and the global political landscape has changed dramatically since then with the fall of the Soviet Union and the rise of China, civil wars and UN interventions, not to mention al-Qaeda."

True enough. 

Given recent articles here on the subject it shouldn't be necessary to repeat my own views, as summarised by Harry Binswanger the other day: "You want a solution to the 'problem of illegal immigration? Here it is":
The problem of "illegal" immigration can be solved at the stroke of a pen: legalize immigration. Screen all you want (though I want damn little), but remove the quotas. Phase them out over a 5- or 10-year period. Grant immediate, unconditional amnesty to all "illegal" immigrants.
Clearly there's more to the argument, which you can find here in my Immigration archives and in Harry's own extended argument: 'Immigration Quotas vs. Individual Rights: The Moral and Practical Case for Open Immigration.' I trust a few of you will be able to put them to good use in making your own submission on the review.
Click here to read more ... >>

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Mark Inglis. Hero.

A brief word on the issue of Mark Inglis, his heroic climb and the tragic death of David Sharp. Many people including Sir Ed have questioned the morality of Mark Inglis walking past the dying David Sharp. Many details have emerged of what happened up 8000m up in the death zone -- a place so inhospitable to human life that at times just surviving is all you can do -- including the news that Inglis's own sherpas did investigate David Sharp and concluded no help was possible to him.

Morality pertains to actions over which you have a choice, over which it is possible to do something. David Sharp chose to ascend the mountain unaccompanied, and it seems insufficently prepared. That seems to have been a bad choice. As for Mark Inglis, given the challenges he faced in just getting back from the summit himself, I'm not sure what he could possibly have done anyway. Inglis's heroism consisted in fully preparing himself; in doing what was necessary to get up the mountain and get back down again - a return journey without which no mission can have any success -- and his efforts and were fully and necessarily focussed on that goal. That goal took all his work. He physically had no capacity for anything more. And he knew that.

And given the dozens of other fully able-bodied people in Inglis's party and on the mountain that day, I'm not sure why Inglis is the focus for the fury in any case, even if it were deserved. Which it isn't. Mark Inglis, you are a hero. Robert Falcon Scott could have learned a lot from you.

UPDATE: A new development promises to throw more light on what happened on Everest that day, and just how close to his limits Inglis really was ...

From Stuff today: TV shows Inglis' bloody trail in Everest's snows
New Zealand mountaineer Mark Inglis is the focus of a Discovery Channel documentary set to start screening in the United States.
The documentary, by filmmaker Dick Colthurst, tells the story of Inglis' becoming the first double amputee to summit Everest, on carbon-fibre legs with spiked feet. The TV series, Everest: Beyond the Limit, shows Inglis inching upward on his spindly black prosthetics, blood from his raw-rubbed stumps staining the snow. "It's hard to know whether to feel inspired by his guts or infuriated at his foolhardiness," said a report on the documentary in the Chicago Tribune.
TAGS: Heroes, New_Zealand

Google searches: Annette Presley and Michael Ryan still tops

Here's what's currently landing here from Google, Yahoo and other searches. I'm pleased to see Annette Presley and Michael Ryan still ranking so highly here when so few other voices elsewhere have them the right way round. Just so you're clear, Ryan is the hero; Presley the face of theft. And by the way, just who is Annette O'Toole?

annette presley (down to 15th) :-(
michael ryan telecom (13th)
broadacre city (5th)
antonio's gaudi quotes (2nd on Yahoo)
paintings by frank o'connor (not on front page)
asiansirens.com (6th on Yahoo)
annette o'toole nudes (2nd on MSN Search)
ecstacy of st. teresa (5th on Yahoo)
drug use as victimless crime (2nd on Yahoo)
iraqi dinar (not on front page)
ministry of transport quotes about $6-a-day charge possible for auckland motorways
phoenix arizona obituary frank lloyd wright (8th on Yahoo)
michael ryan ( telecom ) (13th)
rodin eternal spring (6th on Yahoo)

TAGS: Blog

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Revamped Libertarian Party site

Type in www.lp.org.nz into your browser, and as NZers probably know you get the all-singing all-dancing Libertarianz party website. However, type in lp.org and you get the all-new, all-revamped US Libertarian Party site.

Go visit and see what they're up to. In particular, have a look at their tongue-in-cheek Politician Removal Service clip right there on the front page. Story here.

LINKS: US Libertarian Party website. Libertarians offer 'politician removal service' - CNS News

TAGS:
Libertarianism, Politics, Libz

'Christus Hypercubus' - Salvador Dali


'Christus Hypercubus' - Salvador Dali. Reportedly Ayn Rand's favourite painting -- and also, coincidentally, one of mine. It was one of the first prints I bought as a teenager, some years before I encountered Rand, and it hung on my wall for many years before I could give voice to the feelings it arounsed. I rated Dali, still do, and this to me seemed head and shoulders above all his other work -- and it still does.

But what about the religiosity? Well, that never struck me as an issue any more than it did with Michelangelo's 'Pieta' or Bernini's 'David.' This is a great, powerful and awe-inspiring piece of art. For Rand, it represented man-worship -- the presentation of an ideal -- and for Dali too apparently: the main figure is larger than life and seemingly immune to pain or destruction; a figure incongruously without pain or fear or guilt. The figure at left is Dali's wife Gala, who looks up at the Christ figure with the look of literal man-worship Rand sought to convey in her writing. If Rand did have a question about the religious aspect, it would be this: "How can you worship the torture and destruction of that which you revere above all?" Fair question.

If there is a Rand scene that this most resembles it would be the 'torture scene' in which the victim, Galt, rises above his torturers even as they run screaming from what he has made them realise about themselves -- as this does. And for a text, from Rand's Anthem, the creed of the independent man:
I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. I am the warrant and the sanction.
Apparently Rand would head down to the Met and stare at this painting for hours. I know just how she felt.

TAGS: Art, Objectivism, Religion

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Question for the day...

...comes from G-Man.
How many times did National cut tax (any tax—income tax, GST, anything) when they were in power between 1975 and 1984 and 1990 and 1999?
Good question. I believe it's what's known as 'rhetorical.'

TAGS: Politics-National, Budget_&_Taxation, Politics-NZ

Cutting horror short

Here's a question that I'm sure keeps you awake at night: how long would horror movies be if the girl had a gun?

Answer: 1 minute, 4 seconds. See. [Hat tip Julian P.]

LINKS: Horror film guns commercial - courtesy Libertarian Youth
What's a woman to do? - Not PC

TAGS: Self-Defence, Humour, Films

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Memo from Rodders

Rodney has sent a memo apologising for his recent absences from Parliament to his Epsom electorate, of which I'm one. Somehow NRT got hold of a copy.

Click on the pic to go read...

LINKS: The Rodney Hide memo - No Right Turn

TAGS: Politics-ACT, Humour

Recycling

PJ O'Rourke points out that when used items have real value -- Ferraris for example -- they don't need to be 'recycled,' they get sold. 'Recycled' is what happens to stuff with no value, or with so little value only a government regulation can make enough people care.

Why is 'recycling' so good? Jerry Taylor from the Cato Institute talks about recycling paper:
"Fully 87% of our paper stock," says Jerry Taylor, comes from trees which are grown as a crop specifically for the purpose of paper production. Acting to 'conserve trees' through paper recycling is like acting to 'conserve corn' by cutting back on corn consumption." To cap this argument Taylor presents a National Wildlife Federation study shooing that recycling 100 tons of newspaper produces 40 tons of toxic sludge. "Thirteen of the 50 worst Superfund hazardous waste dumps were once recycling facilities," says Taylor.
So recycling pollutes. How 'bout that. And all that crawling through garbage that you and I and the garbage collector have to do -- separating, sorting, piling -- that can't be good for the soul, can it? As a recent Sunday Telegraph item shows, it's not: outbreaks of violence are common as British householders and the collectors of their rubbish express their frustrations at the increasingly pernickety rules on sorting and separation. Grown men and women going through their used pizza cartons and food scraps like rag-pickers in search of silver -- that can't be good, can it?

And what about where all that recycling goes? As even the Minister in charge of Going Through Rubbish concedes, "The challenge in our small country, however, is to find users of recycled products so that they can be put to a good use. This is not always easy. " No. It's not. Tyres, oil and packaging get some recycling -- some. The rest? Well, as the Minister says, "This is not always easy."

So what's the financial cost of all this time wasted sorting and separating our waste? Fortunately, Tim Worstall has done some figures, and he's worked out what it costs Britain every year. It's a lot. If our own time is a consideration, then 'zero waste' it's not.

LINKS: How green bin rounds leave dustmen black and blue - Sunday Telegraph
Euro Trash - Tim Worstall, TechCentralStation

TAGS:
Environment, Conservation

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Unsustainable management

'Future generations' are the reason given for conservation and preservation of resources. Indeed, the Ministry for the Environment maintains that "conservation of resources for future generations" is explicitly required by the RMA's core principle of "sustainable management." It is mandatory. It is also stupid. I'll just say two things about both:
  1. Resources: 'Resources' are just so much dirt, rocks, trees and mud puddlesthat the ingenuity of the human mind has found a use for. But resources are only a resource if they can be used. If they can't be used they're not resources, they're just so much ballast. Conservation must at some stage give way to production, or else what are you conserving resources for? Which future generation wil be allowed to used them? When?
  2. Future generations: On behalf of my own generation, I'd just like to thank previous generations for building the roads, dams, abattoirs, reservoirs, power stations, powerlines, industrial and chemical plants, sewerage systems, pulp and paper mills, aqueducts, railways and mines that 'sustainable managament,' conservationists and the RMA have made it well nigh impossible to build today. Future generations will not thanks us for bequeathing them a woefully under-equipped future that's full of dirt, rocks, trees and mud puddles, but largely bereft of the infrastructure needed for human flourishing.
'Sustainable management' is neither sustainable nor real management. It is a pseudo-concept giving power to planners over landowners, while demanding the sacrifice of the present to a future that never arrives.

TAGS: RMA, Conservation, Environment, Ethics

How to help the poor

This is too good to waste. Adam Reed, in debating the Mother Teresa/Paris Hilton question had this to say on SOLO:

Fred - you write, "the point about Mother Teresa isn't that there is anything necessarily wrong with helping the poor. The point is that it is an extremely minor and trivial way to help them and elevating people such as her diminishes the much more profound impact of industrial development and the great men who make it possible."

Funny how even today, 900 years after Maimonides demonstrated that the best way to help a poor man is to fund a business that will give him a productive job, and with it the self-respect and independence that come from productive work, Christians still think that the best way is to build him a hospital to die in - without even analgesics to ease his pain - when he gets ill from one of the many diseases caused by staying poor.

Michael Dell employs 8600 people in India. Larry Ellison (Oracle) somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000. IBM 39,000. Together, that's around 60,000 workers; with their families, about a quarter million, who in the unlikely case they get sick (people with good jobs do not get sick anywhere as often as the really poor) can afford real medical care, including analgesics - instead of the unmedicated pain dealt to the poor in 'Mother' Teresa's hospital down the road.

So, if you really want to throw some money at poverty in India, invest in Dell Computer, in Oracle, in IBM. The people of India will grow richer, and you will too. Harmony of interests and all that.

Brilliant.

LINKS: Ways of helping the poor - Adam Reed, SOLO
Cue Card Libertarianism - Harmony of Interests - Not PC

TAGS: Economics, Welfare, Politics

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Ayn Rand's favourite painter


Tonight: Ayn Rand's favourite artist.

It wasn't Vermeer, although she loved the clarity of his work and his powerful use of light, though not, it has to be said, his milkmaids and serving girls. Too naturalistic.

It wasn't Rembrandt, although she did admire his genius -- although she thought he wasted it on "sides of beef."

It wasn't Salvador Dali, although she did love his style which, she said, "projects the luminous clarity of a rational psycho-epistemology, while most (though not all) of his subjects project an irrational and revoltingly evil metaphysics."

But it was one of Dali's students, José Manuel Capuletti (1925-1976), who she loved above all and whom she collected avidly. She loved his style and his subjects. As she said in a brief piece on Capuletti, he was "a man who is in love with life, with this earth."

Shown here is one of his best that I've seen; a piece called Not Guilty. I posted another Capuletti piece last year, El Canal.

Tomorrow: Ayn Rand's favourite painting. And you know something, there's a clue in what I've said above. Tune in tomorrow and see for yourself.

LINKS: José Manuel Capuletti - Aristos

TAGS: Art, Objectivism

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The rewards of Muslim womanhood

Comedian BJ Novak on the 'rewards' of being a Muslim woman. [Hat tip Objective Standard] Click the pic to play. 48 seconds.

UPDATE: Whoops. Links fixed. :-/

LINKS: Islamic 'heaven' - Objective Standard
BJ Novak website

TAGS: Religion, Humour

Restricting growth is not smart, and neither is it cheap

The busybody nostrums of town planners are slowly being seen for what they are: restrictions on people's lives; an insistence that people live as planners wish them to, rather than as they might choose for themselves -- and the planners' restrictions are adding enormous extra costs to housing. Two recent articles confirm that view, one from San Francisco and one from Boulder, Colorado.

Boulder has been described as "twenty-five square miles surrounded by reality." Boulder's town planning regime seems to confirm that view, says the Thoreau Institute's Randal O'Toole, who notes that a whopping ninety-percent of American housing markets are less expensive than Boulder.

Why? "Restrictive land-use planning has driven up housing prices in Boulder... The Boulder policies include restrictions on the number of building permits issued each year and purchases of huge amounts of open space outside of the city to prevent development." It's not only NZ housing that is undergoing an affordability crisis -- the same crisis affects every western city where development restrictions have been widely adopted. Boulder's restrictions are amongst the most restrictive anywhere.

As any fourteen-year-old student of Economics could tell you, if you restrict supply without any lessening in demand you will push prices up. Unfortunately, town planners don't have even that much understanding of economics -- they seem to think that for them, laws of economics can be suspended. They can't. The result of what is fatuously called 'Smart Growth' by the planners -- ie., restricting development - is estimated by O'Toole to add "$117,000 to the median price of a home in Boulder County, even when adjusted to reflect affluent residents' buying power. He writes that a planning-induced housing shortage added $3 billion to the cost of homes [Colorado-wide] in 2005."

So, not very smart at all then.
In an interview, O'Toole said high housing costs are both an unintended consequence of well-meaning land conservation and the result of deceptive efforts by city planners to dictate how people live. "The real goal is not to preserve open space, but to force compact development, also known as smart growth," he said. "The planners don't really care about open space. All they want to do is force people to live on tiny lots or in multifamily housing instead of in single-family homes on large lots — which is where 80 percent of Americans say they aspire to live."

And the silliness is not confined to Boulder -- as I say above, the silliness is worldwide and it is expensive. The Boulder story and a similar story in San Francisco are highlighted in two articles, 'The Price of Smart Growth' and 'The High Price of Land-Use Planning' respectively. Read them. The silliness is slowly having the light of reason shone upon it as the truth becomes more and more obvious: there is Zoned Land, where house prices are high, and Unzoned Land, where they aren't. Our planners are pricing people out of new housing. That's not smart at all.

LINKS: The price of smart growth - Boulder Daily Camera
The high price of land-use planning - Randal O'Toole, San Francisco Chronicle

NZ Housing affordability "in crisis" says report - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)
Housing un-affordability - denying the obvious - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

TAGS: Politics-US Environment Property Property_Rights New_Zealand Economics Urban_Design Auckland

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Solving 'illegal immigration'

The case of Hirsi Ali highlights again the great immigration debate, and on that subject Harry Binswanger cuts to the chase once again. You want a solution to the 'problem of illegal immigration? Here it is:
The problem of "illegal" immigration can be solved at the stroke of a pen: legalize immigration. Screen all you want (though I want damn little), but remove the quotas. Phase them out over a 5- or 10-year period. Grant immediate, unconditional amnesty to all "illegal" immigrants.
Click here to read more ... >>

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Firefox flopped

I had my first Firefox crash yesterday -- I had to spend a whole day on IE! Ayeee! Turned out I either had one extension too many, or two extensions that didn't like the look of each other. I seem to to have tricked it into behaving now, so hopefully this should

Diminishing Returns - Frank O'Connor


'Diminishing Returns,' by Frank O'Connor, AKA Mr Ayn Rand -- Rand's husband. [Sorry about the sharpness of the image -- sadly, it's the only reproduction I can find.]

O'Connor came to painting late in life and almost immediately found his voice, and that voice was playful, colourful, and delightful. A useful discussion on the painting here, with artist Michael Newberry giving his views: "The painting has an irrelevant surreal quality, like the balloon making off with the cloud…reality here is not taken very seriously."

Tomorrow, Rand's favourite artist. Can you guess who?

TAGS: Art, Objectivism

Monday, May 22, 2006

Mooching in NZ

Lindsay Mitchell has some key facts on Redistribution NZ-Style. See how much you know:
  • how few people do you think pay half the tax collected?
  • how many people do you think pay only one-fifth of all tax collected?
  • which group are the real moochers?

Write down your answers before you visit, and see how well you do.

LINKS: Redistribution NZ-Style - Lindsay Mitchell

TAGS: Politics-NZ, Budget_&_Taxation, Welfare, Politics-Labour

No self-made man is an island

What's wrong with self-made men? Why do so many people want to explain away self-made-men? "How many people does it take to make a self-made man?" say critics. "No man is an island." "It takes a village." The cliches go on, and Tibor Machan takes them to task:
This criticism totally misses the point of what a self-made individual is supposed to be. No one who has any sense conceives of the self-made individual as some kind of hermit or someone who sprung to life on a desert island... What a self-made individual is, however, has nothing to do with ending up all alone on a desert island. Nor does it have to do with someone who is anti-social, who distances himself or herself from all others, as the antagonistic caricatures would make it out. No, a self-made individual is one who thinks though the ideas and principles on which he or she bases his or he conduct before leaping to action.
And why then is there so much criticism of self-made men? You'd think they were some kind of a threat! Well, they are to a certain kind of non-self-made person:
One reason is that people who would want to be leaders of others, people who like to rule others, people who want to impose ideas on others find the self-made individual an obstacle to their program... Whenever you hear someone put down the self-made individual, look out—you are likely hearing from a would-be tyrant.
Good point.

LINKS: What's a self-made individual? - Tibor Machan
Cue Card Libertarianism - Not PC (Peter Cresswell)

TAGS: Ethics, Politics, Objectivism

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More on how Labour bought the election, and why the Police don't care.

David Farrar has the latest instalments today concluding his series giving details on how and by whom the Labour Party bought the election with your money -- an intentional overspend by half-a-million dollars -- and why the police didn't prosecute. Essential reading to see how small a concern is honesty when political power is at stake.

LINKS: Series is finished - Kiwiblog (David Farrar)

TAGS: Politics-Labour, Politics-NZ

Too liberal for John Howard's Liberals?

One Australian Rand fan is having trouble becoming a candidate for John Howard's Liberal Party. Prodos Marinakis (left) -- busker, singer, punk performer, internet host, interviewer, Rand fan and classical liberal -- is apparently more liberal than some Liberals can really handle, or would like to.

The Age and the Herald Sun both have stories; links below have further debate.

And for some deep background, Prodos's latest online interviews are a must: he talks to Gerard Jackson asks"Labor Market Reform: Can unions protect wages?" and to Andrew Bernstein on "Capitalism as the only moral system." No wonder the Liberals are scared.

I wonder how many will be joining him in this years Worldwide Celebrate Capitalism Day? Are you? I understand an organiser is still needed for this year's Auckland CCD -- any takers?

UPDATE: I've just heard the Bernstein interview for the first time, and it's not the one I remember. It's good, but do skip the first few minutes where some sad git introduces Bernstein in about as long-winded a way as you possibly can.

LINKS: Candidate flags new liberalism - The Age
Rocker too hot for Libs - Herald Sun
Labor Market Reform: Can unions protect wages? (interview) - Prodos Podcast
Capitalism as the only moral system (interview) - Prodos Podcast
Worldwide Celebrate Capitalism Day

Michael Kroger’s hatchet men betray Liberal Party member - BrookesNews.Com
Prodos goes to Parliament? - Catallaxy
Maverick attacked - The Other Cheek (Andrew Landers)
ALL PRODOS ALL THE TIME: Liberal Maverick Is Not Anarcho-Capitalist - The Other Cheek (Andrew Landers)
Prodos Marinakis - Mangled Thoughts
Meet Prodos, the new liberal candidate for Richmond - zGeek Forums

TAGS: Politics-Australian, Politics, Objectivism, Libertarianism

Celebrity Rand fans

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Jim Carrey, ... the unlikeliest buch of Ayn Rand fans you could imagine, but Robert Bidinotto has the evidence.

And where it might have once raised eyebrows, their apparent enthusiasm barely makes news today.
Ten or twenty years ago, if Hollywood’s hottest couple had publicly announced interest in the ideas of America’s most controversial individualist, eyebrows would have banged against the ceiling. Today, it’s more remarkable because they don’t.
The list doesn't end with those three; Bidinotto also lists amongst the celebrity Rand fans Sharon Stone and Sandra Bullock, sporting greats Martina Navratilova and Billy Jean King, Justices Clarence Thomas and Janice Rogers Brown, business and entreprenuerial heroes, a well-known 'airport novelist' and a much read fantasy author, and even an American President who wrote in a letter to a supporter:
Thanks very much for pamphlet. Am an admirer of Ayn Rand but hadn’t seen this study.
Who's the author? Who's the President? Who else is on the list? Read Bidinotto's article to find out. And why does it matter? He explains:
Of course, endorsements of Ayn Rand’s books and ideas by public figures
(or anyone else) don’t constitute proof of their merits. Nor do the statements
of movie stars, athletes, and politicians usually reveal anything more than a
superficial or compartmentalized grasp of what Rand stands for, or a passing
interest in her work.

But that’s not my point here. The real point worth noting is that statements by public-relations-savvy celebrities do constitute a reliable barometer of cultural trends. And the new willingness of so many public figures to endorse Ayn Rand’s works indicates that she and her ideas are becoming less and less controversial.

The existence of a large and enthusiastic group of “celebrity Rand fans” underscores what might be called “the mainstreaming of Ayn Rand.” When even Hollywood hunks and hotties are no longer embarrassed to enthuse about 'Atlas Shrugged' and 'The Fountainhead' to a Charlie Rose or Tina Brown, it’s a measure of significant progress in the spread of her ideas through the culture.

In fact, it may even suggest that Ayn Rand is becoming — dare I say
it? — cool.
I wish he hadn't said it.

LINKS: Celebrity Rand Fans - Robert Bidinotto
Ayn Rand's stamp on American Culture - Ed Hudgins
The New Individualist, the 'celebrity Rand' issue - Objectivist Center

TAGS: Objectivism, Politics-US, Films

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sprawl: A compact history

"Urban sprawl is one of the greatest enemies of good urban design," say some. I don't agree. As I've said here before, numerous times, urban sprawl is not your enemy. Sprawl is good -- good because it offers people living within a region choices in how they live, without the expensive barriers to entering the housing market that anti-sprawl regulation brings. Where zoning and planning regulations are nothing more than a windfall for existing owners, and a highly regressive form of taxation on those with lower incomes and wealth,
'sprawl' is simply a reflection of letting people live free, in the manner of their own choosing. Allowing cities to sprawl does not preclude those who wish to live in higher densities from doing so, it simply removes restrictions on all those who don't.
I've already posted a review of Robert Bruegmann's book Sprawl: A Compact History but a recent and very good review by Randal O'Toole makes the argument again that the cost of planning is a greater evil than the evils planning is supposed to remove :
Bruegmann's book makes three major points. First, urban sprawl--that is, low-density development at the urban fringe--is not a new phenomenon; indeed, its history goes back hundreds of years and perhaps even to the first cities. Second, opposition to sprawl comes primarily from elites who are protecting their wealth and interests from lower classes whom the elites believe are less deserving or less appreciative of the benefits of low-density lifestyles. Finally, Bruegmann shows that most, if not all, of the remedies for sprawl do more harm than good, mainly by increasing traffic congestion and housing costs.
Sounds good, right? Bruegmann's point about the noisier opponents of sprawl is instructive. It's the urban equivalent of the environmentalist who already has his bush cabin. Read the full review here [hat tip Commons Blog]. Read Glenn Reynolds earlier review here. And check out the links below for my own posts on sprawl, and on urban design in general. They do a fair bit of sprawling themselves.

LINKS: The perils of planning - Randal O'Toole, Regulation [six-page PDF]
Sprawl has always been good - Not PC
Sprawl is good - Not PC
Decentralisation, and those who oppose it - Peter Cresswell, Not PC
Sprawl is good, regulation is not - NotPC
Countywide zoning is unwanted government control - Not PC
Frank Lloyd Wright: Broadacre City - Peter Cresswell, Not PC

TAGS:
Urban_Design Socialism Architecture Environment Libertarianism

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